Fire destroys rural Norwalk home, kills cat

Cary Ashby • Jul 24, 2013 at 10:12 AM

A rural Norwalk family safely escaped from a burning home without any injuries after a fire Saturday morning that destroyed their residence and killed a pet cat.

"The whole back side and attic were involved when we arrived," said Capt. John Soisson, of the Norwalk Fire Department. "Heavy fire (was) coming from the rear of the first and second story and the attic (was) fully involved."

The homeowner 's niece called 9-1-1 at 7:49 a.m. about the house fire at 1074 Peru Olena Road. A total of 11 Norwalk firefighters traveled in two engines, a tanker and a command vehicle to the 4,320-square foot, two-story home. Three other departments responded with another 28 firefighters.

The owner, Arthur Popa, told firefighters "he awoke to lights flickering and (the) power surging in the home for several minutes" and then the power went out, according to Soisson's report. "A neighbor stated that he had also experienced power surges before losing power at his residence."

"After the power went out, (Popa) had his nephew go downstairs and shut off the main breaker, then contacted Ohio Edison to report the outage. His wife got ready to go to work and left the house around 7 (a.m.)," Soisson said.

About 30 minutes later, Popa took his dogs outside for nearly 10 minutes.

"He re-entered the house and heard crackling coming from the kitchen area. (Popa) opened the door and discovered fire and light smoke in the southwest corner of the kitchen. He shut the door and exited the east side of the house, went around to the front of the house to awake six other occupants and evacuated the residence," Soisson said.

Norwalk firefighters initially attacked the fire through the front door, but because Soisson said he saw "unsafe fire conditions," the crew withdrew and went to the back of the house. At that point, he said their efforts at suppressing the blaze "became a defensive operation."

Part of the roof collapsed within 10 minutes of Norwalk's arrival, but Soisson said he suspects the fire had been burning for a while before that happened.

Norwalk received mutual aid from the Fairfield, New London and Townsend Township fire departments. Also at the scene were North Central EMS, the Red Cross, Norwalk Police Department and Huron County Sheriff's Deputy John Vogel, who reported he stopped traffic on the east side of the residence.

"The road was shut down so water trucks for the fire departments could fight the fire," Vogel wrote in his report.

Firefighters set up a "water shuttle operation," which involved 22,000 to 24,000 gallons of water. Soisson said tankers dumped water into portable ponds and then got refills from the Northern Ohio Rural Water system.

The Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department, which was called at 7:57 a.m., brought 18 firefighters and three trucks.

"We were there about three or four hours," Chief Edward Eden said. "It was well involved when we got there."

The New London Volunteer Fire Department responded with eight firefighters in a tanker and a pumper. The crew was there about two hours.

"It was fully engulfed (upon arrival). Norwalk was already set up and going," Chief John Chapin said.

The Townsend Township Volunteer Fire Department sent two firefighters after being called about 8:20 a.m.

"We were called out for a tanker," said Chief Al McGinn, whose crew was there about an hour.

It took about an hour to get the fire under control. Soisson said the blaze started in the kitchen area, but it's not considered suspicious.

Due to the extensive damage, firefighters haven't been able to determine a cause.

The house was valued at about $120,000 and the contents at $25,000. Firefighters consider everything a total loss. The family had insurance. It is not known where they will be residing.

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